Being a Type B personality sucks.
February 16, 2012 11:14 PM   Subscribe

Alright, so I'm not super talented, educated or driven... I should be happy with my less than fulfilling and menial day job, right? Please read further for possibly annoying details.

I never figured out what I wanted to do with my life. I spent too much time as a young adult worrying about who liked me, why people didn't like me, focusing energy and taking care of people who would have never done the same for me. Now I'm 30. I lost my job almost 2 years ago and moved back to home to Portland to be closer to my family. Before moving I had a string of back luck; epic car accident, 2 bike accidents that ended in the emergency room and one with a lawsuit that didn't end in my favor, funerals for friends, family turmoil, etcetcyadayadablahblahcrymeariver... I took some time to recuperate and now I'm feeling better and much happier in general. I have a fantastic boyfriend, a supportive family and amazing friends, but I started a new job yesterday, after searching desperately in this terrible job market for months and months, and I don't know if I'm just an emotional moron and/or an ungrateful/whiney brat, but I hate it. HATE IT. I'm really not qualified to do anything else though, as working in an office environment, doing menial office work is all I know how to do. But, after not doing it for almost 2 years, it's really hard to go back. My superiors are condescending, impatient and rude. This is exactly what I remember it being like and something that I struggled with before I lost my job. I think I've run out of options. Should I just suck it up, or should I go back to school and figure out what I really want to do? Is it too late? Is the economy too bad? Is it worth it for me, in my position, being 30 and not knowing what I want to do, to even try to go back to school and figure something else out? Am I just a giant baby?
posted by anoirmarie to Work & Money (31 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Go back to school! You're really only temporarily in a rut, as opposed to permanently stuck. School will unstick you.
posted by devymetal at 11:46 PM on February 16, 2012

Alright, so I'm not super talented, educated or driven... I should be happy with my less than fulfilling and menial day job, right?

Well, no, the whole point of life is that you live it. If you're unfulfilled, try something else - and then again and again until you find something that fulfills you. There is no age limit on that.
posted by mleigh at 12:41 AM on February 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

You sound like you've had a really rough time and like you're used to toughing things out and putting on a happy face. From this stranger on the internet: you didn't deserve to have a rough time and it's okay to want to be happy.

I should be happy with my less than fulfilling and menial day job, right?

Why? There is no giant judge in the sky who ensures that our economy is a meritocracy. I talk to so many recent college graduates who essentially hold the same job you do, in spite of the fact that they've pretty much always known what they wanted to do and be. Yes, it's all you have right now, and it's better to have money and a job than not to have one. It's more pleasant for everyone, you included, if you try to be optimistic and make the best of your lot. But there's no reason you have to resign yourself to being utterly miserable. Why do you think that that's all you deserve? Why are you beating yourself up for hating a job that you find demeaning and dull? Respect your own judgement. It's a crap job. Nothing wrong with admitting that. Why pile guilt and self-loathing on top of living a life you don't want?

You're only 30! Many people change their careers much later in life than that. You will not be the only person your age trying to figure yourself out and starting from scratch. The economy isn't great, but that's no reason to give up if you want something better for yourself. Go explore. Take some classes, volunteer, work on hobbies, check in with temp agencies, browse job ads, and hang out with people who do things you find interesting. There has got to be something out there that doesn't make you unhappy, or some compromise that will make you happier. I don't think looking for happiness makes you a baby. On the contrary, I think pursuing happiness is one of your key responsibilities as an adult. No one else can make you happy.
posted by sockomatic at 12:42 AM on February 17, 2012 [11 favorites]

Seconding going back to school. Toiling in a crappy job isn't the end of the world but you'll eventually wish it were.

Find what you love to do and do that! And if that means trying 1000 things first then enjoy the journey!
posted by fenriq at 12:43 AM on February 17, 2012

Definitely go back to school, but not until you know what you want to go back for. Start doing some research and daydreaming about a better future now, but don't do anything rash until you're sure that you've picked the right daydream to turn into reality. Don't act out of desperation but plan your career change carefully.

It needs to be something where there are jobs out there, where the educational requirements are affordable, and it absolutely needs to be something that interests you. Then go out and find people that are in that job already and talk to them about what their work is like. Make sure you know what you're getting into. Then, and only then, make it happen.
posted by hazyjane at 1:03 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oof. Portland is a really, really tough market for jobs, I hear.

If you decide to go back to school but you want to stay in Portland, I'd seriously consider jobs that are marketable in that area.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:18 AM on February 17, 2012

You're only 30! Many people change their careers much later in life than that.

Seconding this. I went back to school for massage at age 34 after working in IT for nearly a decade. I basically changed my whole life--what I did, how much I worked, where I lived. I still have issues to deal with, but I like my work life better than I used to.

Surely you can either find something you enjoy more, or that pays more (and hence perhaps work fewer hours?), and maybe both. I am not in favor of waiting endlessly until you decide the exact perfect thing to do, because that may never happen. I think you should actively explore options right now. Job-shadowing, volunteering, your own small business, taking classes on a survey basis, etc. And if you haven't figured out what course you want to take after a certain set period of time (say 2 years?) then I think you should arbitrarily choose something to go back to school for. Say something that doesn't take forever, perhaps a technical/vocational skill, so that you can at least be in a better job, even if it's not the ultimate ideal job for all of time.
posted by parrot_person at 1:20 AM on February 17, 2012

Oh, don't go back to school! You'll spend a lot of money, spend years out of the labor market and run up a lot of debt with no guarantee of a job. (Unless you just don't have a BA, in which case, yes, get a BA)

There are lots of menial jobs that aren't horrible - I have a pink collar union gig that I like a lot most of the time, and while if I could literally go back to being twenty I would do things differently, I know that the cost, debt and dislocation of going back to school just don't make sense. I would never make enough money to compensate for the lost time and the debt. Also, if you go into a graduate program, you'll be in your mid/late thirties when you're done. That means that you'll be a less attractive hire.

There's this philosophy that you should always start over by creating a sort of blank slate - totally new career, totally new degree. No, you should tough it out in this job (it will get better) using volunteer work and skill-building so that you are ready to find a menial job (supporting a non-profit, an arts organization, a union gig, whatever) that pays adequately and makes you happy. There comes a point in life (and I think it's your late twenties, really) when you have to say that maybe you need to be one of those people whose main focus and identity is not their paid work. It's okay to find a reasonably fulfilling day job and do other stuff. This is frustrating and we'd all rather be international specialists in new medical therapies or curate at FIT, but some boats get missed.
posted by Frowner at 1:24 AM on February 17, 2012 [9 favorites]

At 30, you have another 37 years of work ahead of you. Why not go to school at night, so you can keep financially afloat but be happier in the long run? It doesn't have to be one or the other -- you can work and go to school.
posted by Houstonian at 2:10 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thirty is not old! Assuming you are one of those who wants to work until 70 to collect a higher social security payout, that's 40 more years of working life ahead of you - far too long to be miserable!

That said, there are a few things to consider:

1) Portland is a terrible job market. Are you committed to staying there? It might be easier to find meaningful work somewhere less competitive.

2) If you don't have your BA yet, by all means prioritize getting that done. It's the BA that makes the biggest difference in leveraging yourself out of crappy jobs.

3) If you want a Master's or other advanced degree, think about what career you want to pursue before you invest the money so that you're not sinking time and money costs into something you might never use.

4) Clerical jobs don't HAVE to be uniformly crappy. With "condescending and rude" superiors, you have a toxic work environment. That makes any job seem crappier than it really is. A job where you're treated well, paid and benefited fairly, reasonable work hours and work load, not too long a commute - those make a huge, huge difference and can make even a ho-hum office job a much better "fit." Take a long hard look at those factors - especially at your future supervisor(s) - when looking for your next job.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:12 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go back to school but first figure out what you like doing.

Instead of going for what pays the most i went to school for what i like. I actually dont mind going to work because I like doing my job.

Your life will be much better if you do what you love for a living.
posted by majortom1981 at 4:41 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

You said you took care of people--why not look into that field?

Beyond nursing there's options in social welfare, caring for the handicapped--both physical and mental.

Ask around-- some of the social welfare agencies have positions that require very little training and even offer classes in medicine administration and other techniques and skills which you may parlay into something better. Volunteer to get your foot in the door.

As for your present situation, there are a lot of snots in this world--look at your present situation as an opportunity to learn how to handle them on the inside. I promise- you will be repeatedly offered this challenge in life to overcome until you master it.

Look at how they act towards you as indicative of their lack of ability to manage others with respect and dignity.
posted by AuntieRuth at 5:06 AM on February 17, 2012

I think the first thing you should do is find another job where you don't have to work with condescending and rude people.

Start applying aggressively for other jobs that are similar to the one you have now. If the people turn out to be more rudesters, rinse and repeat.

Once this is done, you will be able to think straight. For admin jobs, temp agencies are your best bet. Sign up with at least a dozen. They may be able to find you at least something temporary right away. If they ask why you want to leave, say "the work culture doesn't really suit me" and when they ask what you're looking for in a new place say "I want to work in banana-straightening, oakum-picking or squid-disembowelling, but I'm flexible about exactly what type of business it is; the most important thing, for me, is that they have a culture of respect." Don't harp on about it, but do slip it in there.
posted by tel3path at 5:38 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want a Master's or other advanced degree, think about what career you want to pursue before you invest the money so that you're not sinking time and money costs into something you might never use.

Thinking is not sufficient. If you do not know absolutely with the fire of a thousand suns what you want to do for a career, do not invest in a Master's degree or higher without a well-defined career path in mind (and preferably already underway in a job that will pay for at least some of your degree).

You do not need to be miserable in your job, but simply going back to school will not ensure that you can find a job you will be happy in. Follow the advice above to find a better job for now, and consider the larger career path once that is a bit more settled.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:26 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you do not know absolutely with the fire of a thousand suns what you want to do for a career, do not invest in a Master's degree or higher without a well-defined career path in mind ... You do not need to be miserable in your job, but simply going back to school will not ensure that you can find a job you will be happy in.

I have to second this. You don't want to wind up at a different job/field you're not happy with and with a ton of student debt.

As an exercise, make a list of things you've always thought would be interesting to do for a living, but never really pursued because you thought you didn't have the right connections/skill/etc. Then read this ask MeFi from a few weeks ago. The focus of that question is a little different (it's not really about career switching) but it demonstrates that it can be surprisingly easy to get a toehold simply by being the one person who speaks up or shows up.

Jobwise that may be a little trickier, so you might want to look at opportunities to volunteer in a field that you'd ultimately like to be employed in; that will get you both entry-level experience and a network of contacts.
posted by usonian at 7:08 AM on February 17, 2012

I am not educated, and I completely lack ambition unless planning my next bike ride counts.

However to make things worse I actually am quite talented, but don't really do a damn thing with my talents besides pragmatic day-to-day things. Could have been an artist, product engineer, who knows what. My parents are baffled. However there is extreme pressure in our society to follow a path, follow the path, be somebody, go to school, go back to school, etc. Ours is a modern life and we forget that billions of people actually simply existed through their lives before us without the luxury of satisfaction, contemplation or fulfillment.

I'm going to get all New-Age n' shit on this one.

Whenever things like this bog me down I remind myself that i am an entity with conciousness.

Out of all the infinite things in the universe the atoms and elements that comprise my body could have assembled into, they wound up forming themselves into a living being and one that can appreciate that state cerebrally. This is magic to me, blows my mind every day, and shakes me out of the pits.

Ask yourself "Am I a participant on this Planet Earth or am I simply a passenger?". Sounds like right now you are a passenger. Simply opening your mind to the infinite makes you a participant. Sometimes this is all it takes to feel like like an eagle amidst all the turkeys. Then, find something you are passionate about and pursue it. It makes no damn difference what it is as long as you have it inside you.
posted by No Shmoobles at 7:10 AM on February 17, 2012 [8 favorites]

The average age of undergraduates at Portland State is something like 26. I bet you'd find you're about the same age and younger than as many other students there. You won't be a weirdo at all.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:28 AM on February 17, 2012

I suppose I should clarify a few things. I never got my B.A., was actually working towards a degree in math with the goal of becoming a teacher, but life got in the way and to be honest I was never going to be able to finish with a math degree anyway. So, would going back to get a general B.A. be a good idea?
Also, when I started seriously looking for a job again I was fairly picky, but as time trudged on it became apparent that my competition in this city was too stiff to be so picky. I started applying for any office job posted. 2 months of sending out 30 resumes a week got me 2 interviews. I love Portland. My support system here is strong. But I don't know that I'll have many opportunities to find a better job at this point. Not to sound too defeatist.
I like the idea of volunteering. I'll definitely look into that. I'm only worried that working 40 hours a week at a job I hate will make it difficult to find the energy to do something like that. I guess I just need to put all this into perspective.
Thanks for all the advice so far. It is very much appreciated.
posted by anoirmarie at 7:43 AM on February 17, 2012

Now is the time to upgrade your skills, while you are still young and have an excellent support system. I would advise you to go back to school to finish up the BA - do it while working if at all possible. Also, keep your eye out for better jobs, there are workplaces that treat their support staff with respect, and some places will actually train you to do non-administrative work if you show promise.
posted by sid at 7:57 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

A big, big plus of your situation is that you have friends and family right there. Use them. Do some gentle networking. Expand your circle, make new friends, meet people who work in areas that interest you. You don't have to throw yourself into school just yet if you don't know with absolute certainty what you want to do; you can be an admin assistant, but if you're in a field that means something to you and working with reasonable people, you'll feel so much better about everything.

Without putting pressure on people, let your friends and family know and remind them often that you're looking for a job. The best, most fitting job will probably come to you through somebody you know, rather than by sending out applications into the vast vacuum of the internet. (Although keep looking at job ads, as well.)
posted by Ender's Friend at 8:04 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, figuring out a way to finish your BA in the next few years sounds like a good idea. I feel like I'm treated much better and have had more opportunities in the pink collar world because I have a BA. Once you're financially stable, you could start taking night classes (in which case, yeah, find a major you like because it will be hard to work full time too.) Or you could work this job for a while with a view to finding a job in an industry where they will pay for related schooling (financial industry even at a low level often does this, for example - like, just being an accounts-wrangling person). Volunteering once a week (at least to start) won't feel too burdensome if 1. You make sure you're getting whatever block of downtime you need in the week (ie, I try to have Saturday afternoon through Sunday evening free for myself); 2. evening volunteering is easy to get to and get home from so you're not feeling like you're dragging yourself in 3. if you're volunteering in the evening, make sure to have some dinner as part of the process.
posted by Frowner at 8:17 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've never found a job through people I know. I've always gotten them through applying. Do tell everyone that you're looking, though. People can't help you to get something if they don't know you want it.

30 resumes a week sounds okay, but as I said, an agent should really be able to help you find something. They're crap for computing jobs, but great for office jobs. And you did actually get two interviews in two months. That's not terrific, but it is a lot better than some people get. I always have a good hit rate with interviews so if you want to MeMail me and have me review one of your applications, I can do that.

Because you don't expect to be happy and don't think you deserve to have a job you don't hate, removing yourself from a situation that's actively making you miserable doesn't seem like the priority to you that it should be. It's like

You: I have this big shard of glass in my foot, but I don't have insurance so I can't go to the ER or anything. There's people out there with no arms and legs, right? So who am I to complain. Anywho, I just feel miserable all the time, I guess it's because I'm selfish. Can anyone advise me on how to get into a degree program so that after I finish it in a few years' time, I might be able to get a job that has insurance so I can become a dancer like I always wanted? Thanks.

Me: go to the ER to have the foot injury treated

You: yeah, I would but I tried walking to the ER and it's three miles away and it was really painful. Maybe I will take some dance classes but I don't know if I'll be able to considering this incredibly awful pain in my foot. But thanks.

I've been there, myself. First principles, you know?
posted by tel3path at 8:24 AM on February 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

One thing I kind of wish I knew at 30 was that 30 is pretty much when you still have time to make a radical change in your personal/career direction (my life turned out great; don't cry for me). Get your BA. I'd recommend finishing it in Math if you can, but you seem pretty set on the idea that you won't be able to do that.

Get a job, preferably one that will support your goal to finish your BA. Then apply for better jobs. It's always easier to get a job from the standpoint of having a job than just applying blind while unemployed. Plus, since you'll be in the process of finishing you BA, you'll have access to your campus's career center and recruiters.

Because you don't expect to be happy and don't think you deserve to have a job you don't hate, removing yourself from a situation that's actively making you miserable doesn't seem like the priority to you that it should be.

The big lesson of my late 20s-30 was realizing that this was a terrible way to think, but I didn't figure that out before then.
posted by deanc at 8:28 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you don't want a BA in math and to work in an industry that requires one, then don't finish it; and if you want a BA, get it in a subject you actually care about and can get a job that utilizes; a general BA in, say, "liberal studies" will be meaningless to some employers, unless you take classes that teach skills they find valuable. It's hard, but you really need to figure out what your skills are, what skills you need, and what you want to do with them. Right now you have the cushion of a job that you may hate, but that you are qualified for, and that's really one of the best times to start really thinking about this.

Having a degree, networking, being currently employed, and using recruiters help some people, not all people; there are a lot of factors involved. But if you are unhappy, there is always worth it to try to fix the situation.
posted by sm1tten at 8:34 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I never got my B.A., was actually working towards a degree in math with the goal of becoming a teacher, but life got in the way and to be honest I was never going to be able to finish with a math degree anyway.

If you were accepted for a degree, it's highly unlikely that you don't have what it takes to finish. Of course it is legit to decide that you don't want to go into that field any more though.

If you do want to finish, you might look into whether there are part-time options where you are. That way you can keep working and earning, and not burn any bridges if you're not sure where you want to go with the degree.

If you're really not sure what you want to do, maybe take advantage of the great online learning opportunities that are becoming available these days to explore possible areas of interest.

Thirty is far from being too old to go back to college or change career direction, but I probably wouldn't advocate going back full time until you know at least roughly what direction you want to go.

Btw, a plus of starting on any kind of learning (part-time, online, full-time, whatever) is that it'll probably boost your self-confidence and self-respect, and likely how you are seen by others as well.
posted by philipy at 8:39 AM on February 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would not go back to school until you have figured out why you want to go back to school. You will be in the same position as now looking for a menial job but mostly likely owing money.

Give yourself the opportunity to try different things/types of jobs. Don't limit yourself to office work or traditional careers. What makes you happy? Figure that out and then strive for that.
posted by turtlefu at 9:14 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd like to add my voice to those pointing out that dull, unengaging office jobs don't have to be synonymous with condescending superiors and a toxic environment. I'm pretty bored and uninspired by my current job. But I have great coworkers and a great boss. That, to me, is worlds better than a job that I find engaging and fulfilling that also comes with horrid people around me.

I can get frustrated with my workday sometimes, no doubt. But most of the time I appreciate the monotony for what it gives me. I love being able to listen to podcasts and audiobooks while I work. That's something I would miss in a job stimulating enough that I couldn't pay attention to books. And I tend to prefer nonfiction via audio, so my education and learning is constant. And that is deeply fulfilling for me.

So keep your day job to provide for yourself, but put some energy into making your outside of work life wonderful. And keep your eye out for a better work environment.

When I start to feel stuck and frustrated at where I am professionally, I remind myself that I'm so glad to have been born during this time and place. Because even the shittiest job I've had to subsist is so much more preferable to me than the factory jobs some of my great grand relatives had. It's a trick that works for me, but might not for you. Look to find your own trick to help you through frustrating times.

Best of luck!
posted by f_panda at 9:57 AM on February 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Don't settle! Some of us are figuring out that rather than one single, steady, office-type job, we have to break out of the box and do several little things to support ourselves. Is it hard? Oh my, yes. But what I've found is that it's a happier existence, a more fulfilling one, and one that's positively loaded with self-discovery. Be your own revolutionary. You deserve it.
posted by chatelaine at 11:05 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Absolutely get a degree - any degree. An undergrad degree is more of a sign to the world that you are qualified to jump through hoops, deal with bureaucracy, and finish something. I don't think the actual subject matter is of the utmost importance in many cases.

If possible, see if you can get a job like your current one, but at a university as this might qualify you for some free tuition, etc.
posted by lulu68 at 11:45 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to thank you all for your input. All of this has helped put some perspective on my situation and I certainly don't feel as much like the helpless special snowflake that I did when I posted this. I'll definitely be looking into volunteer work, night classes when my financial situation improves a bit and possibly my opportunities for a better job through a temp agency. As a side note, I love metafilter.
posted by anoirmarie at 12:29 PM on February 17, 2012

I'm with everyone on going back to school to do something that you love.

So long as that beloved something will keep you in the lifestyle you'll want and all.

I'm in a job that doesn't make me happy.

But it affords me a basic standard of living (very basic... the house we bought and will die in is a whopping 970 sq ft and it's in a skeezy little subburb) Insurance for the family, and as much stability as can be expected.

I want more, and this place is not awesome, but that doesn't mean it's so awful that I can't find some level of contentment, you know?

I'm not saying " just take what you have and be happy.". There's nothing wrong with striving for more. Especially if you really believe you'll find happiness.

One thing about what you said really stuck out to me - you just started this job yesterday.
Can you give it a couple of weeks before going "yep, I knew I'd hate it!"

I can say from experience, not starting with the mindset that everyone is out to get you and dump on you and be condescending to you can go a long way towards not making it a reality in your own mind.

You don't have to be happy there, but you don't necessarily have to be so miserable, either.
posted by Momorama at 2:27 PM on February 17, 2012

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